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by Eric Kohn
February 11, 2011 6:41 AM
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EXCLUSIVE: The 100 Films Affected By the Regent Lawsuit -- And What the Filmmakers Can Do About It

Xavier Dolan's "I Killed My Mother" received critical acclaim but has never been released by Regent. Image courtesy of TIFF.

With approximately 100 library titles and unreleased acquisitions at stake in the $90 million lawsuit against Paul Colichman and Stephen Jarchow's Regent Entertainment Group, some of the impacted filmmakers have told indieWIRE they are considering the possibility of uniting for a class-action lawsuit.

The Regent filmmakers must determine if they can retain rights to their films or receive any of the payments they initially expected from the company. Filmmakers tell indieWIRE they signed ownership rights over to Regent ranging from 18 to 30 years. Court documents value the Regent library at $10 million.

However, one veteran attorney said while filmmakers should take action, class-action isn't the way to go.

"These people need to be fighting to get their films back, but they almost want to force a bankruptcy," said Rob Rader, a partner at Todd, Ferentz, Schwarcz & Rimberg who formerly worked in business affairs at MGM and currently teaches entertainment law at Pepperdine University.

Rader pointed out that individual lawsuits from three licensees will force an involuntary bankruptcy. While that might not bring the filmmakers any financial rewards, Rader said, "At least they would be able to get their movies back."

Among the titles at risk are the 2009 U.S. acquisitions for festival hits Asghar Farhadi's "About Elly," which won Berlin's Siver Bear, and Canadian superstar Xavier Dolan's acclaimed directorial debut, "I Killed My Mother," which won several awards at Cannes Directors' Fortnight. Both remain unreleased, although Dolan's second film, "Heartbeats," will be released by IFC next week.

Noteworthy library titles include "Sex Positive" directed by Daryl Wein, who later made "Breaking Upwards" and is currently developing two projects at Fox Searchlight; the animated Israeli film "$9.99" and the Robert Pattinson vehicle "Little Ashes," in which the "Twilight" star plays a young Salvador Dali.

And, as Regent's frequent presence among GLAAD nominees and Outfest lineups testifies, the company has been a gay media linchpin; Colichman and Jarchow were even honored at the 2007 ACLU Pride Partnership Awards. In addition to its focus on movies that appeal to the gay audience, Regent's holdings include The Advocate and Here! Network.

"It boggles the mind," said Jody Wheeler, screenwriter of Regent production "Heat Wave," which is cited in court documents. "They took every new crop of gay filmmakers, pulled them in, signed them up and either didn't pay them or paid them poorly and then let it go."

Several filmmakers told indieWIRE (requesting anonymity, in light of pending litigation) that they never received any payment from Regent, or — in at least one case — were forced to hound the company for over six months in order to receive the initial advance. They also claim Regent films were sold to international territories without filmmakers' knowledge.

"It's just been one bad situation," said Nicholas Eliopoulos, director of "Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies," which was bought by Regent after it premiered at the 2008 Telluride Film Festival and is one of the relatively few Regent titles that isn't targeted specifically to the gay audience. "My goodness. We couldn't have ended up in a weirder situation."

Regent Releasing CEO Mark Reinhart did not respond to repeated requests for comment; nor did the plaintiff's attorney, Daniel Murphy at Loeb and Loeb. Nevertheless, the specific claims made against the company are thoroughly laid out in court documents that track increasingly bizarre actions by Regent's owners.

The impetus for the bank's lawsuit dates back to 2005, when Regent secured a $55 million loan from Merrill Lynch to cover distribution costs. In 2008, Jarchow allegedly formed the distribution companies Family Media Home Entertainment and Liberation Productions International, which entered into distribution agreements with Regent. In other words, Jarchow created companies that made deals with each other, leading many to speculate that he was sending the loan money directly into his own pocket.

That jumbled arrangement was only one chapter in the chaotic saga of the Regent empire. The founders are an unlikely business duo: The openly gay Colichman -- who, curiously, is not listed alongside Jarchow in court documents -- previously worked at Fox and ran film company I.R.S. Media. He met Jarchow, a Republican tax lawyer from Texas, in the mid-1990s and the duo established Regent Entertainment.

The 1998 success of Regent's star-studded "Gods and Monsters" propelled the company toward more gay-specific entertainment, including dozens of in-house productions that mostly took the form of low-budget B movies.

"It was pretty plain that the only people who had any real power at that place were Colichman and Jarchow, who was funding everything," said Wheeler, who said he was paid $5,000 to write two versions of "Heat Wave" -- one gay, one straight. "The only person who decided on everything was Colichman. You would take ideas to him and he would either buy them in the room or turn them down. It was almost as if the guy wasn't in business to make even halfway decent stuff."

Wheeler said many colleagues complained about payment problems at Regent but saw few options for legal recourse. "The one thing that Regent did brilliantly was write iron-clad contracts that gave them all the rights and kept people from bad-mouthing them," Wheeler said.

The lawsuit against Regent, a 57-page document filed by Merrill Lynch and Bank of America in Los Angeles Superior Court at the end of January, alleges that the company took out loans in excess of $90 million for projected distribution costs. Those loans, however, were funneled into shell companies owned by Jarchow and Colichman, and many of the films were never released.

After several failed attempts to contact the company, Merrill Lynch decided to auction off Regent's loans in October 2010. Surprising the room, Colichman and Jarchow showed up at the auction and entered a bid on the debt. As a preventive measure, the bank outbid the businessmen and won back the debt for an additional price tag of $6 million.

As Regent faces its charges, the filmmakers must decide what to do next. Eliopoulos said that he hopes to return to the festival circuit with "Mary Pickford" and eventually release the film on DVD. "We've got to work with our attorney to see what we can do," he said, noting that he sold the movie to Regent based on a personal connection and never had a proper sales agent. "We didn't really have a chance to shop it around, and that kinda makes me sad."

While Dolan declined a request for comment from indieWIRE, he recently released a statement about his experience with Regent at the recent New York premiere for "Heartbeats." Citing "a distributor of questionable professionalism" that bought his first movie, Dolan wrote in an e-mail read aloud before the screening that the company "finally filed for bankruptcy and never released it."

That bankruptcy claim has not been confirmed, but it will take a long time to unravel the layers of accusations surrounding Regent's actions.

"What these people have done makes it a hundred times harder for us to get our dreams off the ground," Wheeler said. "They've poisoned the fucking pot for everybody."

Filmmakers who have movies in Regent's library and would like to share their experiences can contact indieWIRE at editors@indiewire.com. All information is treated as strictly confidential. Our best list to date of outstanding Regent titles is on the jump.

These titles were acquired by Regent and are currently unreleased.

About Elly
I Killed My Mother
Mary Pickford: Muse of the Movies

These titles are currently listed on the Regent website as being part of their library.

$9.99
Antarctica
April's Shower
The Art of Being Straight
Aurora Borealis
Beautiful Boxer
The Blue Tooth Virgin
Breakfast with Scot
The Burial Society
Callas Forever
Ciao
Cthulhu
Cut Sleeve Boys
Departures
Eleven Men Out
Eleven Minutes
Eternal
Fall of Hyperion
Fat Girls
Freshman Orientation
Friends & Family
Guys & Balls
HellBent
Holding Trevor
The Hottie & the Nottie
House of Usher
The Hunting of the President
I Can't Think Straight
Ice Blues
In Her Line of Fire
Kabluey
Kiss Me Deadly
Kiss the Bride
Leather Jacket Love Story
Little Ashes
Looking for an Echo
Looking For Cheyenne
Margaret Cho: Assassin
Merci Docteur Rey
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green
Murder.com
Naked Fame
Nina's Heavenly Delights
No Regret
On The Other Hand, Death
Polar Opposites
Poster Boy
The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela
Queens
Race You To The Bottom
Saving Marriage
Serbis
Sex, Politics & Cocktails
Sex Positive
Shelter
Shock to the System
Showboy
ShowBusiness: the Road to Broadway
Solar Flare
The Song of Sparrows
Sordid Lives
Speedway Junky
Spent
Stephanie Daley
Straight-Jacket
Summer Storm
Taxidermia
Tokyo Sonata
Tru Loved
Unconscious
Vivere
The World Unseen
Yes Nurse! No Nurse!


The following titles are not listed on the Regent website. However, in June 2009 Regent announced that it made an exclusive arrangement with E1 Entertainment to release its films on DVD for the next three years. These titles are part of E1’s Regent library.

A very cool christmas
The awakening of spring
The Brotherhood
The Brotherhood IV: The Complex
The Brotherhood V
The Brotherhood VI: The Initiation
Clapham Junction
Dangerous Isolation
Deadly Shift
Deadly Skies
Dream Boy
Fixing Frank
Force of Impact
Julie Johnson
Just Say Love
Killer Bees
Long Term Relationship
Manuela and Manuel
Misconceptions
Murder in Fashion
Nine lives
Polar Opposites
Terror Peak
Third Man Out
Too Cool for Christmas
Watercolors
Wildfire 7

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17 Comments

  • Sean Carnage | February 19, 2011 4:08 AMReply

    There is a new chapter to the ongoing Regent investigation and you can read it here:

    http://www.queerty.com/frauds-monsters-a-rogues-gallery-of-regent-entertainment-here-media-players-20110217/

    Please let me know what you think!

  • Paul | February 18, 2011 9:59 AMReply

    Bialystock & Bloom.

  • LDC | February 17, 2011 6:01 AMReply

    Regent scammed everyone. Their employees, their film makers, their creditors, their vendors, even the guy who watered the plants. Top to bottom, if you had anything to do with Regent and you were not one of the ones in on the scam, then you got burned. Colichman and his gaggle of gay goons are a bunch of tools and they will hopefully soon crawl back under whatever pile of dog crap that they crawled their way out of. It couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of douchebags!

  • Antonia Carey | February 15, 2011 2:56 AMReply

    "Mary Pickford: Muse of the Movies" is an absolutely fantastic film. I couldn't figure out how such a great documentary hadn't really gotten much buzz or why it wasn't picked up somewhere until I read this article. Check out the film's website and see the praise it has received from people like Ken Burns and Leonard Maltin.

    http://www.marypickfordthemuse.com/flash.htm (check out the reviews section!)

    I really hope the producers (Elizabeth Wood Coldicutt and Nicholas Eliopolous) are able to regain control of this wonderful film so others can see it. It's really something special.

  • Mathilda | February 14, 2011 6:01 AMReply

    I was actually surprised to see that Dolan's next movie is on a crowdfunding website (touscoprod.ca) in order to find money to produce it !

    But I joined this opportunity to help this talented director, and I really hope that he'll get more recognition with "Laurence Anyways". Here is the link : http://www.touscoprod.com/ca/pages/projet/fiche.php?s_id=2

    And also an interview he did in french about it (english subs in comments) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHFziRhHFJs

  • Bill Stephens | February 14, 2011 5:28 AMReply

    David Blake, you appear to make an assumption that the problem with Regent's distribution was that the current marketplace is tougher. Regent was unique. They appear to have had the worst marketing and distribution model in the history of Hollywood. Rarely did they get a trailer out until a week before opening, and then only on the one screen playing the movie. They NEVER advertised on television or with anything close to half page ads in newspapers. Their online advertising was mostly only on their own websites. I have read elsewhere that they typically only spent $50,000 on advertising nationwide for a typical release, while pocketing close to $1million from investors. People who know them say that when their "better" releases started making money, they pulled them out of theaters (Callas Forever, The Hunting of the President, Little Ashes, Departures) to avoid P&A costs from a wider release. Regent has more of the lowest grossing of all time films than any other contemporary distributor at their level.

  • David Blake | February 13, 2011 7:28 AMReply

    No clue, money or ethics. Bill Stephens is right. Problem is that even if they had been well financed, the orthodox food chain model that supported interesting independent films for many years, particularly in the US and the UK, is no longer viable. It was always expensive to market a film effectively. 'Is the game worth the candle?' Not a lot of people have been consistently successful no matter how well-intentioned, qualified or honest. The promise of revenue streams from digital delivery is I fear, still only a promise unfortunately. Until distributors find new reliable ways to connect these fabulous films with their specialised target audiences profitably, it will remain difficult to raise film finance from profit seekers.
    Producers can investigate distributors easily by talking to other producers and sometimes it is better to wait and not enter into a questionable relationship with a distributor. Good discussion. Some of these films as someone just said are 'not very good'. Says who? Define 'good'! 'nobody ever set out to make a bad film' is an old quote (don't know who, sounds like Irvin Shapiro!) If you love film, you are bound to see a lot of 'bad ones'. If you are in aquisition you see all the ones that never even got released. After a while, the process becomes financially dangerous, distributors fall in love with a film and chase the producer's dream, overhead eating him up, take a punt! One or two bad deals can kill a distributor regardless of his acumen. 'Getting the film back' is worth the effort. Films live on forever and new more efficient income streams do evolve - eventually!

  • ernesto texeiras | February 13, 2011 12:01 AMReply

    Good piece.

  • Sean Carnage | February 12, 2011 11:41 AMReply

    This is very informative. Great job.

  • Bill Stephens | February 12, 2011 8:44 AMReply

    James, just because you didn't seem them doesn't mean there weren't good films. Such films as the masterful Cannes Jury Prize winner "Tokyo Sonata," Roger Spottiswoode's amazing account of Rwanda's genocide "Shake Hands with the Devil," the beautifully sensitive Academy Award winner "Departures, " Director Roger Young's "Eichmann" starring Thomas Kretschmann, Xavier Dolan's Cannes Regards winner "I Killed My Mother," the unique Annie Awards nominee "$9.99" with the voices of Geoffrey Rush and Anthony LaPaglia from director Tatia Rosenthal, and Iranian director Majid Majid's Berlin Film Festival winner for best actor "The Song of Sparrows," are films that did not deserve to be tanked by an inept and corrupt distribution company with no clue as to how to market a film. Yes, a lot of Regent's bread and butter was production of DVD titles sold to nearly 100 countries around the world, but their Regent Releasing world cinema titles were coming in and dying because of executives who had no clue, no money, and no ethics.

  • herbert katz | February 12, 2011 8:26 AMReply

    This is lawsuit is important not for the particular films involved or their impact on the public but because it will force the judicial to establish on a firm ground what are the legal aspects governing ownership of Indie movies. Big news Eric

  • James | February 12, 2011 4:48 AMReply

    Beyond the individual tragedy for many of these indie filmmakers, one of the underlying problems is that most of these movies are really not very notable. As someone who works in the industry and goes to a LOT of movies, I've never seen one of these films. I am sure many readers could say exactly the same thing.

  • Scott Cranin | February 12, 2011 3:34 AMReply

    To James & Richard:
    Many of these films are niche market, genre films made for gay men. Just like martial arts films or "weepy women's films" there are films specifically made for the gay male market. They aren't known outside of our little world. From my job at TLA many of these films are major: Shelter, Sordid Lives, Just Say Love - and many others. Sometimes niche markets films break beyond their boundaries - most never do. Xavier Dolan's wonderful "I Killed My Mother" should have, but Regent's situation has obviously prevented this. This is a sad situation for these films, the filmmakers and the fans. We here at TLA are hoping for a quick and just resolution of this problem that ensures that these films stay available and gets "I Killed My Mother" released. I see a pair of missing films from this list - "Mr. Leather," which was pulled because WEA wouldn't sell it when Ryko was selling the distributor. It's got some adult content. "Play Dead" is licensed by Regent but it's never had a release - something I don't understand at all.

  • Richard B | February 12, 2011 2:24 AMReply

    I saw "I Killed My Mother," and its more original than a lot of the bloated-budget schlock that comes out of Hollywood each year. Maybe it takes someone who "works in the industry" to be so ambivalent about cutting edge work just because they've never seen it.

  • Bob Giovanelli | February 11, 2011 8:05 AMReply

    It's only confusing if you're seeing a colon where it's a semi-colon.

  • Bob Giovanelli | February 11, 2011 8:04 AMReply

    It's only confusing if you're seeing a colon where the sem-colon is.

  • What? | February 11, 2011 7:08 AMReply

    "Noteworthy library titles include 'Sex Postive' directed by Daryl Wein, who later made 'Breaking Upwards' and is currently developing two projects at Fox Searchlight; the animated Israeli film '$9.99' and the Robert Pattinson vehicle 'Little Ashes,' in which the 'Twilight' star plays a young Salvador Dali."

    Daryl Wein is developing a 2008 Robert Pattinson film that the actor has already made? Confusing.